What Are You Saying – Or Not Saying?

We all know that communication skills are crucial for success in your career (and in life).  In the employment world, one of your most important communications is your resume – the document that describes your professional history, and (hopefully) opens the door to new career possibilities.

But as important as your resume is, it’s only a small piece of your whole picture.  It’s that next step – the interview – that actually determines whether or not you get the job.  Face to face communication allows you to use not only words, but enriches the communication by adding appearance, voice inflection and body language.  Research supports the power of even small changes in body language for effective communication and relationship building.


The next time you meet someone new, make sure to smile.  Research shows that smiling promotes trust among strangers (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167487001000599), and smiling faces are actually easier to remember (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18455740?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DiscoveryPanel.Pubmed_Discovery_RA&linkpos=1&log$=relatedarticles&logdbfrom=pubmed).

Slouching Makes You Sad

Body posture is important for multiple reasons.  Not only do others assume things about you from your posture, but it can actually affect both your mood and your energy level. For example, slouching makes you look less important to others, and can actually increase your feelings of depression.  Whether sitting down or walking, keeping your chin held high and your shoulders back will improve your look and your mood, as well as increasing your energy levels.  (http://biofeedbackhealth.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/a-published-increase-or-decrease-depression.pdf)

Confidence is Catching

It’s important to project competence and confidence in your own abilities, and a recent study suggests there’s no need to worry about appearing too confident – in fact you can actually gain social status that way (http://haas.berkeley.edu/faculty/papers/anderson/status%20enhancement%20account%20of%20overconfidence.pdf). People who are highly confident speak more often and more confidently, provide more information and answers, and appear more calm and relaxed when working with their peers. Displays of competence are sometimes given more weight than actual competence, so don’t be afraid to let your abilities shine through.

Power and Pride

People with power, from either position or circumstances, tend to make themselves physically bigger and more expansive. (Why is the speaker at and event on a raised platform?  Why does the boss have a bigger desk?).  When you emulate the posture of power, you actually make yourself feel more powerful. For example, having people privately assume a high-power pose (standing up straight, hands on hips, chin up, and feet apart) for 2 minutes before going into a stressful situation actually changed their hormone levels and made them more risk tolerant, more likeable, and more likely to be hired. (http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html)

Read Body Language in Others

Finally, when making inferences about other people, make sure you are not misreading their body language.  For example, is your co-worker really angry with you, or is she crossing her arms because she is cold? Pay attention to the body language of others (http://publicspeaker.quickanddirtytips.com/How-To-Read-Body-Language.aspx), and you’ll be able to ensure your listeners understand your message.

By paying more attention to nonverbal signals, you can change the way you are perceived by others, as well as changing the way you perceive yourself.

Get involved in the discussion

The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (https://communities.acs.org/community/profession/career_development)._—brought to you by ACS Careers.

5 Responses to What Are You Saying – Or Not Saying?

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